Jun 4, 2013

Celebrating the Great Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen is one of the most prolific American authors alive today. He has written more than 175 books (including three Newberry Honor books: HATCHET, DOGSONG, and THE WINTER ROOM), and has published over 200 short stories and articles for children and adults. Although he’s been writing for publication since the 1960s, Paulsen is still going strong; his latest novel for kids, VOTE, came out on May 14th of this year—three days before his 74th birthday!
My fourth grade sons Will and Ben discovered Paulsen’s books this year, and have been voraciously reading as many that I will allow onto their Kindles. We will definitely be visiting the library often this summer—there is no way I can buy all of Paulsen’s books for my boys, no matter how fabulous he is! Will’s favorite so far is ROADTRIP, the crazy-fun story of a father and son on a mission to rescue a border collie (this is just the tip of the iceberg—but I don’t want to give too much away!). His class did an author study on Paulsen a few weeks ago, which culminated in a party celebrating the author’s birthday on Friday, May 17th. The kids loved it, and Will thought this was a fun way to honor his new favorite author!
Ben’s favorite Paulsen book is HATCHET, about a boy’s survival in the Canadian wilderness following a plane crash. When I asked Ben why HATCHET is his favorite, he said that he really likes the adventures in the book, and is especially impressed with the main character Brian’s survival skills. Both of my boys have read the entire HATCHET series and love it. They are Webelo Cub Scouts and enjoy anything to do with the outdoors, and these books have been perfect for them!

Paulsen is also an avid dog lover, and many of his books feature special canines. In the opening to MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS, he remembers Cookie, a sled dog who saved his life. Each chapter in the book tells the true story of a special four-legged friend, in poignant prose that will touch the heart of every dog lover.

I decided to focus on Gary Paulsen today in part due to his love of dogs. On Sunday evening, my family and I said goodbye to our sweet dog of 14 years, a Brittany Spaniel named Ellie. Ellie was my first “baby.” My husband and I adopted her when she was only 5 weeks old. Ellie was thrilled when we adopted a rescue Brittany, Sam, when she was 1 year old, and then together Sam and Ellie patiently survived the arrival of our twins several years later. When the boys were big enough to play, the four of them had lots of fun together.
Ellie had a spunky, funny personality, and the demeanor of a tolerant princess. When Sam died in August—on my boys’ first day of fourth grade—Ellie helped us through our grieving process with her sweetness and love. Without her in our house today, it is very, very quiet. One day, I will finish reading MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS, but not yet (I know from what I have read so far that some of the chapters are real tear jerkers). It is nice to know that this wonderful book will be waiting for me when I’m ready, though.
So make a point to read a Gary Paulsen book soon; you can chose from funny, adventurous, poignant—whatever you are in the mood for. And if you have a sweet dog of your own, go give him or her a big hug because dog years go by way too fast for us humans. 
One of Ellie's first pictures...seems like just yesterday!



  1. Some writers, especially in Kid-lit it seems, are prolific. Hundreds of books published, and possibly thousands written.
    Gary Paulsen and Jane Yolen come to mind as having done that. while writing very *good quality* literature (yes!) for children.

    1. Yes! Thank goodness for these supremely talented writers--I am a huge Jane Yolen fan, as well.

  2. Hatchet is one of my favorite books...a totally great read. Will check out his other titles.

  3. Sorry to hear about Ellie. I'm sure that was hard on you and the kids. *hugs*

    1. Thank you so much, Leandra. It has been a difficult week, but we are doing better.


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